Just enough Fantastic Beasts to keep you entertained, not enough substance to meet expectation.
J.K. Rowling attracted fans in their millions into her magical ‘wizarding world’. A generation grew up on her stories about Harry Potter and friends in a series of books that became the world’s best selling. The subsequent films based on the books generated millions in revenue.
The author now turns her hand to screenwriting for the first time with her latest tales of magic and fantasy. Set seventy five years prior to the events of ‘The Boy Who Lived’, we learn all about ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.
Expectation has matched the anticipation of fans for this latest romp into Rowling’s ‘wizarding world’. The tale takes inspiration from a book Harry Potter would read at Hogwarts. ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, by Newt Scamander.
Eddie Redmayne plays the role of Newt Scamander, a wizard who travels from London to New York with an unusual purpose and a unique set of stowaways in his hand luggage. Scamander is a collector and protector of the titular ‘Fantastic Beasts’. Some are cute, some are cheeky. Others are less cuddly. One in particular is downright terrifying.
Naturally upon arrival Scamander’s travelling companions escape and the first hour of the film is dedicated to his encounters with a would-be baker (Ben Fogler) and a by-the-books, demoted investigator who works for The Magical Congress of the United States (Katherine Waterston) and their attempts to recapture the escapees.
Eddie Redmayne in the lead as Newt Scamander is superb. His demeanor is disarming and awkward. He exudes a gentleness yet there’s an underlying confidence and charm. His method of seldom making eye contact with his companions, accompanied by his nervous smile, make him endearing. I can’t imagine anyone else owning the role in quite the same way.
Indeed, the entire cast present a rich tapestry of characters that mislead and misdirect throughout, and it’s the second hour of the film in which the levels of intrigue are heightened. Not all is as it seems at The Magical Congress of the United States, a clandestine dark force is at work to manipulate and harness a dangerous energy.
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is a visual feast for the eyes. Bleached colours add to the tone and setting whilst the actual beasts are vibrant, weird and wacky. The film can be best described as fun.
With a 12a certificate in the U.K. any suggested warnings for parents don’t hold much concern. I happily took my six and nine year olds along who barely flinched throughout the duration. And it’s this lack of any kind of tension or threat that makes the whole experience rather lacking in guts.
The plot progresses at a rapid pace considering the two and a bit hour running time. There’s a definite sense that this first of five planned films acts mostly as an introduction to the Fantastic Beasts world, and as such the plot moves from point A to point Z without too much in the way of surprises. You never feel that the characters are in any real threat and resolutions come all too easy.
There is a wonderful charm to ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ thanks mostly to the cast who are hard to fault. Sadly the film lacks real substance and fails to hit the same kind of beats that, specifically, the latter Harry Potter films hit upon so well.
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is in cinemas now.